Canine Lessons

Goliath has come to spend the weekend.  He is my granddog.  My son, Drew and his wife, Bethany adopted him from a local shelter.  He was the dog that sat quietly while the rest of them barked and pleaded.  And when they got him out to see how he would play and react with them, he set his chin upon Bethany’s knee and looked up her.

“Okay,” she said, “You know how to get out of here, don’t you?”

The rest is history.  A good history.

Goliath, the shelter said, was left by the previous owners because he liked to chase four wheelers.  Drew lives in a housing addition with no ATVs, but we, on the other hand, live in the country, and one of the favorite activities here is to ride the four wheelers.  So Drew brought Goliath to visit us and to put him to the test.

Goliath is about four years old, I guess, and he is a mutt for sure.  He looks a lot like a Great Dane, but he also has a Shepherd’s tail and the markings of – well, some other breed(s).

On his first trip to Grandma’s, he ran from end to end, his long legs stretching out to explore the terrain.  Yet each time my son called his name, he came.  And when the ATVs were fired up and rumbling, he sat at full attention.  His eyes bigger, his ears taller.  Drew put the four-wheeler into gear and slowly pulled away.  Goliath rose to follow, but Drew sternly told him to stay.  Drew took off and Goliath sat, his body twitching with the yearning to follow.

Truly, we didn’t care if he liked to chase ATVs.  We didn’t see what the harm would be.  Yet it was refreshing to see that the rumbling motors and turning wheels did not undo the obedient guy.  No, even through the temptation, Goliath still remembered to listen to his new master.

Goliath has stayed with us one other time, but just for one night, while Drew and Bethany went camping.  He is a very well-behaved guest.  This time, Drew and Bethany wanted to take the kids to see their grandparents in Chicago.  The grandparents have two dogs of their own, and Drew was a bit hesitant to test their tolerance of Goliath or his of them.  Knowing that Goliath and my pup love each other, and that I would take good care of his baby, Drew decided to leave Goliath with me.

Oh, yes, I forgot to mention that almost a month ago, I adopted a pup from the animal shelter.  My Golden Retriever, Cleo, my perfect companion, had to be put down a couple of years ago, and I have been missing her since.  Yet I know that I do not have the energy that I had twelve years ago when I trained Cleo.  My desire was to get a dog like Goliath. Grown, trained, and just needing a good home. But the cards dealt are not always what you think you will be getting.  My husband wanted a puppy, he said, so we could train it to be our dog.

So enter Siddha, a hound mix that I had thought by the appearance of the siblings she was caged with at the pound, was a Lab mix.  Little did I know, till her first vet appointment, that a litter of pups could have several fathers.  And, the vet said, she was not of Labrador Retriever descent.  She was a Walker Coon Hound and a Beagle mix.  Both nosey creatures by nature.  Both breeds with a mind of their own.

I have to admit, it had me almost giving up.  I was out for the easy road and realized at this point that it may be all up hill from here.  Then Siddha looked at me with her watery big doe eyes, and I knew that I had made a deal.  It’s like when you have a high spirited child, right?  You don’t send them back and try again.

I have found in my history that if a path starts to get a bit bumpy, I tend to bail.  I steer in another direction or stop completely.  I think of Atreyu in the film, Never Ending Story. He has to get to the Southern Oracle to save Fantasia from the Nothing.  He must pass through the Spinxes’ gaze, but is warned that he must truly believe.  Atreyu is a much braver warrior than I, but his example shows me that all through life, we are handed challenges, and believing in one’s self is the only way to get through them.  Half my problem has been that even when I did forge ahead, I didn’t give myself credit. I would define the success, and when it didn’t look like I had imagined it would, I didn’t recognize it as success.

My youngest sister was discussing her tendency toward taking the path of least resistance (as my mother always called it.)  She has two young sons and has made it her goal to teach them to walk through it, to tough it out, to have faith in themselves that they can do it; it just may not be easy.  She is sharing her fears with them and letting them see her walk through them.

Siddha may not be a Goliath – all broke in and ready for the long journey.   She’s going to take some work.  Yet, already, I realize that she has taught me that even the tough road has some great scenery.  She is loving and responsive.  She makes me smile. And more than anything, she’s teaching me to smile even as I am picking up more and more pieces of tennis balls and stuffed dog toys.

Having a puppy has given me the opportunity to realize that I have more time to use than I had thought I did.  I know this sounds ridiculous.  How could something that takes more time give you more time?  I guess it’s just the change in perspective.

This Saturday morning, the alarm clock did not go off, but I arose at 6:30 (actually an hour of sleeping in, according to my normal schedule) and was greeted by two loving faces who just wanted to go out to potty.  They each take turns.  One will sit on the steps, Goliath a bit more patient than Siddha, who starts to yap her insistent baby being neglected yap, while the other gets their turn at the outside.  I have tried taking them both at once, but like children, they then forget what they are out there to do and start frolicking and chasing each other.  As I wait for each to do his/her business, I am met by the damp air of the spring morning.  Birds chirp their morning greeting, and I will say, since I have had to take Siddha out, I have seen some amazing sunrises that I would have otherwise missed.

A dog like Goliath might have been an easier route for me, but even during this uphill climb to my next “perfect companion”, I am taking the time to see the grass sprout from winter sleep.  I realize once again, it’s not the end result that matters most; it’s getting there.



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